Eagle Valley kids live like locals in Costa Rica | VailDaily.com
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Eagle Valley kids live like locals in Costa Rica

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyRaina Gulick with her host family on Isla Chira in Costa Rica.
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GYPSUM, Colorado ” Isla Chira, a tiny island off the west coast of Costa Rica, is the kind of place where the catch of the day is also your dinner.

It might be a difficult way of living for Americans, but spending a week in a small, rural, self-sustained fishing community will definitely change your outlook on life, says a group of students from Eagle Valley High School.

The students spent 15 days in Costa Rica, where they immersed themselves in Spanish, absorbed the culture and gained some independence, said teacher Gretchen Gerleman.

The first half of the trip was a little more touristy. Students explored the active volcanoes and hot springs in Arenal, rode a zipline through the forest canopy in Monte Verde and relaxed on the beach in Manuel Antonio.

The second half of their trip though was more intense. Every student lived with a family on Isla Chira, and the lifestyle, while relaxed, required a lot of work and an ability to let go of some of the conveniences we often depend on here.

“Living in that kind of environment shows you what you’re made of,” Gerleman said.

About 1,500 people live on the island. Everyone seems to know each other. A funeral held one day of the trip was attended by everyone on the island, the students said.

Most of the families are fisherman, raise cattle or farm. The students spent their week helping out and going to school, many going on fishing trips in the Nicoya Gulf.

If you want to communicate, Spanish is a must, so it was definitely a time for the students to test and refine what they’ve been studying in class.

The family Ali Gulick stayed with ran a small convenience store, and she helped them out with the work. One day, they asked her to run the cash register by herself ” a difficult thing to do because nothing in the store had a price on it. She got by as well as she could, putting her Spanish to the test and relying on the patience of the customers.

“I hope I didn’t rip them off,” Gulick said. “They were very kind.”

Overall, the feeling was relaxed. No one seemed to be in a hurry. The people on Isla Chira don’t have much, but everyone seemed happy and content with what they do have, the students said.

At school, classes were sometimes held at picnic tables outside. People rode bicycles everywhere. It was common to ride your bike to someone’s house and leave it there for someone else to use.

Showering was difficult ” one student said the shower in the house was just a little nozzle in the back yard. The food was interesting. They ate a lot of rice, beans and fish, and a few peculiar local creations, like condensed milk with saltine crackers. Families used a lot of cream cheese in their cooking.

The students said the lifestyle in Costa Rica may be a lot different, but they had more in common with the people there than they realized.

“We’re all human. Teens have the same feelings and emotions no matter where you go,” Gulick said.

Along with learning more Spanish, the students came back feeling like they were too attached to material things, and perhaps took things too seriously, senior Elena Hernandez said.

“You realize you don’t need so many things in your life,” senior Toni Hoehan said.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.


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